Audioquest Mackenzie and Earth interconnects

Audio cables are a curious thing, especially for those that listen closely and hear differences. Materials matter, and more importantly how these materials interact and affect the quality of signal propagation is measurable. I am certainly in the camp of hearing the effects of conductor type, dielectric materials, and various shielding methods. Once the signal leaves your source, preamp, or amp, the cable type can have audible signatures that once heard, are hard to ignore. The more resolving one’s audio system is, the more these differences can stand out.

Audioquest Mackenzie interconnects

Having already listened to solid core digital cables from Audioquest, I was now interested in hearing the analog interconnects also constructed with these similar conductors. The 2 that rose to the top of my listening sessions were the Audioquest  Mackenzie and Earth interconnects. To explore the sound these cables presented to an audio system, I was fortunate to not only use a home stereo setup (Benchmark AHB2, Crane Song Avocet, Clearaudio Concept, Moon LP 5.3), but also a professional mastering rig within an acoustically optimized room in Hollywood.

Starting at the mastering facility, we used Lipinski monitors with two time-aligned JL subs. The source for our listening sessions came from the SADIE digital audio workstation. Clocking for the system was provided by a rubidium oscillator distributed to all digital gear used for playback and recording.

While we had an entire loom of Audioquest Mackenzie to interconnect all the gear in the mastering facility, this was not the case with the Earth cables. With this in mind, we felt a good starting point would be to compare the standard stranded cables often used to interconnect the studio (Mogami) with the Mackenzie.

In a mastering studio we often use analog outboard gear (EQs, compressors, etc) for processing. This requires that the digital audio file is played back via a DAW, converted to analog, processed through the outboard gear, then converted back to digital and captured in the digital audio workstation. This process allowed us to record the same music with both the Mogami cable, and the Audioquest cable in use. After the recording through each set of cables, we were able to playback the two audio files and A/B the results in real-time.

The two stereo audio files (time-aligned) were assigned to their own tracks in the DAW, allowing us to easily switch between them and hear the differences. Starting with the Mogami, the soundstage was smaller, and their was a graininess to the sound. Switching to the audio captured through the Audioquest Mackenzie immediately opened the soundstage width and provided a clarity that was easily heard. Myself and several engineers agreed that the Audioquest cables presented a grain-free clarity that was not available with the stranded copper design (Mogami).

Audioquest Earth interconnects

While we didn’t have enough of the Earth cables to do the same listening experiment in the mastering room, we did have a pair to audition. So, I decided to check these out in my home stereo system. My good friend came over and helped as we switched back and forth between the Mackenzie and the Earth interconnects.

The sound of the  Mackenzie was distortion-free; a stable wide sound-stage, clarity from top to bottom, and excellent stereo depth/height information. Replacing the Mackenzie with the Earth demonstrated further details without being upfront or hard in any way. In fact, the bass was noticeably weighty, carrying the fundamental note with more precision and a deeper impact. Mid-range and high frequency extension proved to be a bit more open and relaxed compared to the Mackenzie.

Digging into the factors of signal transfer will get you started on a path of materials science. Dielectrics (material insulating or surrounding a conductor) can have dramatic affect on the overall sound/energy of an audio signal. I should note that the Earth interconnects are a physically bigger cable. They use FEP air tubes which I think reduces the dielectric absorption of energy in the cable. More specifically, two things are at play here; the air, and the FEP (Fluoro-Polymer). These FEP air tubes provide less contact between the conductor and wall, and the FEP itself provides the lowest energy absorption in an extrudable insulation. These factors may account for some of the sonic differences we heard.

On the other hand, the Mackenzie uses a hard cell foam insulation material to surround the conductors. This foam is then nitrogen injected, a process that creates air between the surrounding material and conductor. The enhanced hard cell foam also allows the conductors to maintain a uniform impedance.

From my experience, outside of conductor type, the most salient sonic inhibitor has been found in dielectric material. But one must be open minded, as a culmination of materials create the sound of Audioquest cables. Further details on their construction can be found at the Audioquest website.

After spending several months with the Audioquest cables I can assuredly contest an enhancement to both professional and audiophile systems. The Mackenzie is my top pick for what audiophiles might consider an affordable top performer. The Earth furthered the sonic traits of the Mackenzie, coaxing out better bass extension and a more dimensional stereo soundstage.

Highly Recommended

Happy Listening!

Oyaide Electric Company; A Materials Science Approach to Power Distribution 

Power Distribution Parts by Oyaide Elec & Acrolink Japan

The Japanese hi-fi market exists alongside a healthy DIY audiophile scene. The Akihabara neighborhood of Tokyo is a great example. One step off the Sobu line and a world of electronics specialty stores become available for professionals and hobbyists alike. One of my favorites, Oyaide Electric shop provides cables, connectors, and parts for building your own audio, video, and power cables/distributors.

Oyaide is a long established electrical wire company that  has been in business since 1952. Over the last 30 years they have grown to develop products for the audiophile and pro audio markets. Materials for Oyaide Elect. are developed and produced in Japan with a combination of technological innovation and traditional craftsmanship.

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 P-004 Beryllium Copper no plating hand polished by traditional Japanese craftsmen

Oyaide power distribution materials are carefully auditioned and produced to provide tonal options for audio enthusiasts and professional musicians. Both the AC wall outlets and power plugs from Oyaide have been developed with several different base alloys and platings.

Their standard 15 amp Power plug and IEC connections (P-004/C-004) have become available with and without the plating of platinum and palladium. This has allowed me to listen to various power cables (Acrolink, Oyaide) and hear how they interact with different plugs and outlets- giving me a better understanding of what the AC conductors sound, which inludes: dielectric materials, shielding, plugs and ultimately the outlets they interface with.

After investigating several brass alloys, I have come to appreciate the sonic qualities of the Beryllium Copper alloy when used for AC power in highly resolving audio systems. Beryllium Copper is used for its spring like qualities combined with electrical conductivity. This alloy has corrosion resistance and maintains its original shape due to its ductile properties.

The Oyaide R0 AC duplex is made of beryllium copper for the contacts and PBT (with 30% glass) for the thermoplastic outlet face. Mechanically, the Oyaide duplexes provides excellent AC blade retention, and the PBT and glass filled body helps dissipate unwanted vibration. The R1 employs the same construction but adds a plating of platinum and palladium to the AC receptacles base alloy.

Homemade Power distribution with Oyaide MT UB Power tap case, R0 & R1 outlets

To satisfy my curiosity, I built a passive power distributor from Oyaide called the MT UB. This 2 mm thick brass and nickel/chrome plated 2 duplex box exemplifies Japanese craftsmanship. Four separate mounting poles with special washers allow each duplex to be well isolated from each other. I wired it with high-purity Japanese solid core copper and used one R0 un-plated beryllium copper duplex and one R1 plated with the platinum and palladium. I will try and describe the sonic differences of each outlet below.

Oyaide R0 duplex: This un-plated Beryllium Copper AC outlet provides an un-hyped and natural soundstage when used on analog and digital equipment. Compared to several other outlets with various metal platings, the R0 has provided me with the most neutral sonic presentation, a robust and taut distribution of power without any accent in the audio band. The R0 excels at dynamic sound with full energy at all octaves.

Oyaide R1 duplex: Beryllium Copper plated with platinum(0.5 μ) + palladium (0.3 μ). This outlet helps create a sound of focused and refined sonic presentation. While the un-plated R0 maintains an organic flow to the music, the R1 also adds a sense of lowered noise floor with some equipment, and I found that digital gear and video (improved contrast and blacks) benefited most from the R1 outlet. While I still hear a neutral presentation (Sonically), the R1 has a highlighting or spotlighting ability, albiet subtle.

Over the last decade I have been experimenting with various aftermarket power cables and power conditioners. Sometimes with fair results, and sometimes the cables or conditioners have effected the sound negatively. Starting with a materials based approach, I have been able to better understand how different conductors, dialectics, plugs, and  AC receptacles will effect the sound quality of professional and audiophile sound systems. Oyaide Electric company has provided a basis for AC materials to be judged in audio systems, see for yourself.

-Happy Listening

Caution: AC power distributors and cables are serious and should only be built/worked on by trained/licensed professional electricians.